BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez says the State of Texas needs to make a stronger commitment to the space race, 2.0.

If it does not it could get left behind by states like Florida, Colorado, and Alabama.

Mendez first made the call in an op-ed he jointly penned with Margaret Spellings, CEO and president of Texas 2036 and former Secretary of Education, retired Colonel Tim Kopra, vice president for robotics and space operations at MDA, and Maynard Holt, CEO of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

The op-ed appeared in the Houston Chronicle and the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service

Mendez followed this up with similar comments at a news conference held in Brownsville to announce the arrival of 9Point8 Capital, a group of companies that supports the space industry with end-to-end financial products.

“It is important to position ourselves as the leader and continue to be the leader. We do have 70 years of legacy when it comes to space travel. When you think about it, we have kind of been dormant, in a way, this whole entire time. And Florida is a huge competitor, they are known as the Space Coast, they have launch sites, they have all sorts of companies out there, they have capital,” Mendez said.

“Colorado is emerging with Space Force and other things. California has always been a player. Alabama is also a huge player now, as well.”

In order for Texas to remain competitive, Mendez said, it really needs to start looking at the assets it has in the space industry and what it has to offer to companies in order to get them to locate here.

“We have to look at various things. One of them is workforce. Thanks to the college and the university and our partners and our neighbors to the south, in Matamoros, we have an advantage when it comes to workforce,” Mendez, referring to Texas Southmost College, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and the skilled workers operating in the maquiladora industry.

“We are obviously well positioned globally for launches, which is huge. If you create that atmosphere, this business-friendly environment like we are doing, we are going to be able to attract that,” Mendez said.

“But that is not enough. You also need what I spoke to earlier, which is the main component here, finance and capital. That is why I think this is a such a huge endeavor. It is so big for us here in Brownsville but it also has ramifications across the state and our competition against other states.”

Asked by the Rio Grande Guardian to elaborate on the message contained in the op-ed, Mendez said: “We want our legislators and the rest of Texas to wake up. We have Texas swagger but we also have to remember that while we are the largest state in the continental U.S., we have competition and if we do not wake up and we don’t start allocating resources at the state level, we are going to lose out.”

Mendez said he was, thus far, pleased with the response he has received from the op-ed.

“We are really trying to forge these allegiances with Houston (home of NASA) and with McGregor (where SpaceX has a manufacturing plant) and with some other parts of the State. But, we are getting the attention we wanted from the legislature, the aerospace caucus.”

Mendez said he is very close to the chair of the aerospace caucus, state Rep. Dennis Paul, and the vice chair, Doc Anderson.

“We have been having these conversations and they understand the value and they are really doing their part at the legislature to get this conversation going. Over the last couple of days I know we have gotten the attention we wanted and hopefully this creates the end goal, which is creating more resources and allocating more capital to this industry.”

Asked if the state leadership needs to wake up when it comes to the Space race, 2.0, Mendez said: “They have to wake up, definitely, because if we do not get serious about this industry… we have been heavily reliant on oil and gas for the state’s economy and obviously the state has done a good job attracting businesses but this is something that we already are well positioned for, that we have been leaders in, historically. But other states want a piece of this pie and we are losing out so, yes, we definitely need to wake up.”

Helen Ramirez is executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, Brownsville’s Type A economic development group. She is also assistant city manager of Brownsville.

Ramirez also answered the Rio Grande Guardian’s question. 

“This is the only place you can launch in Texas. And that is very important. Recognizing that and having the rest of the state recognize that and support that is very important,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said that in Los Angeles and South Bay, a number of aerospace companies, such as Northrop Grumman and Boeing are very restrictive in what they show the general public.

“The community really didn’t know what was going on behind those hangers, I think what is unique about our (SpaceX) Starbase launch site being here. And, they (SpaceX) have also located 100,000 square feet in and around our Brownsville Airport,” Ramirez said.

“You can see what is happening (with SpaceX). We have thousands of kids from Brownsville go and visit and students from UTRGV go and see what is going on, there is nothing behind a closed door.”

Ramirez said: “Mission Control is no longer in Houston. It is in Hawthorne, California (where SpaceX is headquartered) because of commercial space or a private company is leading the charge. So I think this is our time. We can stay asleep or we can wake up and really ride the wave.”

Ramirez added that Brownsville would have a presence at SpaceCom in Florida next February. “We will be represented there. And we will have Brant and a lot of support from the companies that are here now and the companies that are looking to locate to Brownsville.”

The “Brant” Ramirez was talking about is J. Brant Arseneau, founder of 9Point8 Capital. Arseneau spoke at the news conference.

“We are excited to locate a key part of our operations within the City of Brownsville,” Arseneau said. “This city is quickly becoming an important location within the space industry and because we consider our relationship with our clients and investors to be paramount in helping them succeed, we need to be located near them — which includes being right here in Brownsville.”

Mayor Mendez added to his comments about the State of Texas doing more, later in the news conference. He said: “This is multifaceted. Workforce, obviously, capital, incentives (are needed). But, one thing that is lost in this is also support with infrastructure. An example of that is if you drive out to SpaceX today, SpaceX is spending almost a million dollars of their own money to rebuild Highway 4 out there because the state is moving too slow and they have not had the state support to get it done. They cannot afford to wait for the state to move. But, if the state had a little bit more strategic effort here that is probably something that would get done a lot faster. But because it hasn’t they are taking it upon themselves to do that.”

Speaking of 9Point8 Capital, Mendez said, “There is nobody that is really doing venture capital when it comes to Space. This is a huge opportunity based on the economics of the Space industry and especially New Space. What is happening and where it is going is huge. Nobody is actually really funding or doing these start ups and start up capital funding like Brant is. There are success stories already. When you see where this economy is going, we have started to, behind the scenes, also forge some partnerships with other cities in the state of Texas. And the Guardian was kind enough to publish an op-ed that I contributed to a couple of days ago talking about Space and where Texas really stands in the space race, 2.0.”

Arseneau: Brownsville can become the Silicon Valley of the space industry

By Mario Muñoz and Steve Taylor

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – NewSpace investor J. Brant Arseneau says there is no reason Brownsville, Texas, cannot become the Silicon Valley of the space industry.

“I would like to be the first finance person to be in Brownsville when this becomes the Silicon Valley of Space. We can say, hey, we went there, first,” Arseneau said.

Arseneau os founder of 9Point8 Capital, a group of companies that supports the space industry with end-to-end financial products.He spoke at a recent news conference held at the Brownsville Event Center. Other speakers included Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez, and Helen Ramirez, assistant city manager of Brownsville and executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.

The news conference was called to announce 9Point8 Capital’s arrival in Brownsville.

Ramirez said Brownsville is often considered the third city for space after Cape Canaveral and Houston in the U.S. and is well on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of Space because of its ties with SpaceX.

Their innovative agile approach to the space industry is considered more effective than what traditional space companies have seen in the past, Ramirez explained. Additionally, the city continues to attract space companies to the region, and with the addition of 9Point8, it adds local financial infrastructure to help these companies grow.

Arseneau said 9Point8 Capital’s vision is to support space companies from their earliest to latest stages, with private equity to public credit, for investment capital to working capital. He said that after nearly 25 years on Wall Street, he had decided to chase his lifelong dream of being a part of the growing commercialization of the space industry and a new founded movement called NewSpace.

Arseneau is building companies that currently include the advisory group, 9Point8 Capital – a public capital raising platform, Spaced Ventures – a venture fund, Gravity Management, and a soon to be launched incubator and hatchery, 10MK.

As part of this partnership in Brownsville, 9Point8 Capital will build a local back-office team to support their global financial infrastructure and locate their incubator and hatchery within the city. Additionally, Arseneau announced that 9point8 Capital is creating a Space Scholarship Fund that will be available for students in Brownsville who attend the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley.

“The City of Brownsville is thrilled to support 9Point8, so they can help provide the financial infrastructure to both early and late-stage space companies that are finding a home in our region,” said Mayor Mendez. “As the home of the SpaceX launch site and many other space companies, Brownsville, Texas, is the future of the space industry in the United States and becoming an important part of a larger global industry, and this company fits what we are trying to do in Brownsville to foster the NewSpace ecosystem.”

Ramirez said 9point8’s arrival to the City of Brownsville reinforces one of her city’s main pillars – economic development. “We want to develop a sustainable economy through businesses like these, and 9point8 will not only create employment opportunities, but these 10 million dollars in Venture Capital will impact our community’s access to education, as well as attract other businesses in this industry, allowing us to position ourselves as leaders in the space industry,” Ramirez said.

Speaking on the selection of Brownsville as their new site, Arseneau, said: “We are excited to locate a key part of our operations within the City of Brownsville. This city is quickly becoming an important location within the space industry and because we consider our relationship with our clients and investors to be paramount in helping them succeed, we need to be located near them — which includes being right here in Brownsville.” 

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